Day of the African Child: Living with disability in South Sudan
This year's Day of the African Child draws attention to children with disabilities, under the theme “The Rights of Children with Disabilities: The Duty to Protect, Respect, Promote and Fulfil. On this day, UNICEF calls on families, communities and governments throughout the continent to protect children with disabilities from discrimination, violence and neglect, and to provide them with access to all the services they need to grow up healthy and live up to their potential.
By Mercy Kolok
JUBA, South Sudan, 16 June 2012 - Meet eight-year old Dominic Simon Laku, a first born in a family of three. Dominic was born without lower limbs. This however does not deter him from living like any other boy his age. A Primary Two pupil at Bright Hope Academy, Dominic has set a record of attaining straight A’s and is one of the leading pupils in his class.
“I love school because I get to learn new things and play with other children. When I grow up I want to be a doctor so that I can help other children who have special needs like me,” said Dominic.
Dominic is one of the few lucky children living with disabilities whose parents understand the importance of giving him an equal chance in life. Many children living with disabilities in South Sudan are still being hidden by parents for fear of discrimination and embarrassment.
“I had lost all hope when I first saw my baby but all these changed after several counselling sessions,” said his mother Victoria Sunday. “Over time I have learnt to accept his situation and to love him, treat him well and give him equal opportunities as his siblings.”
“My son may not have legs but he has brains and that’s why I have chosen to invest in his education. I know he has a bright future ahead of him,” added his father, Simon Lemi.
Because of his disability, Dominic has to be carried by his parents to and from school, which is 10km away. For the parents, who are both casual labourers, this often means a loss of job opportunities. Nonetheless, they happily take on the task day after day.
“My advice to parents with children with disabilities is for them to accept them as they are and give them a chance in life,” said Dominic’s father. “This is not the time to hide these children. They deserve to go to school, to play, to be loved, to be cared for and to be protected from discrimination.”
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